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Highland uniform conundrum - what unit is he in....?


headgardener
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Here's an interesting one. It's a photo of a serving soldier, taken in Peterhead (Aberdeenshire), and I'd be very interested in your opinions on his uniform - most particularly as to whether they 'fit' together correctly.

He's wearing a correctly tailored 'cut-away' SD jacket, but what I'm particularly interested in is:

  • his cap-badge and glengarry (especially the badge - what do you make of it?)
  • his sporran and kilt
  • the fact he's wearing diced hose (which appears to match the kilt) plus shoes - or possibly brogues - without puttees, spats or hose tabs
  • the brassard (apparently blank) on his left arm

Does anyone have any comments about this ensemble or its constituent parts....?

Thanks in advance.

post-55685-0-88860900-1422028927_thumb.j

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Badge looks Gordon-ish to me.

No idea about the hose: possibly a recruit dressed-up by a photographer (or is that "sexed-up"?).

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The glengarry and badge look Gordon Highlanders to me.

I don't think that under any of the odd results from photographic emulsions would a Gordon tartan (Black Watch with a single gold over stripe) appear like that.

Do I see three tassels on the sporran?

Could it actually be a black arm band coming out like that because of the photo emulsion?

There is a shoulder title but I can't make it out.

The hose flash doesn't look as if it has the Gordon's single loop/belly but again I can't see it well enough.

R.

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Badge looks Gordon-ish to me.

No idea about the hose: possibly a recruit dressed-up by a photographer (or is that "sexed-up"?).

The glengarry and badge look Gordon Highlanders to me.

I don't think that under any of the odd results from photographic emulsions would a Gordon tartan (Black Watch with a single gold over stripe) appear like that.

Do I see three tassels on the sporran?

Could it actually be a black arm band coming out like that because of the photo emulsion?

There is a shoulder title but I can't make it out.

The hose flash doesn't look as if it has the Gordon's single loop/belly but again I can't see it well enough.

R.

Thank you both - yes, the badge looks Gordons to me (although the area where the stags head should be looks a bit thin to my eyes), but hard to tell from the angle. The photo was taken in prime Gordons recruiting territory, but I'd appreciate any further thoughts from anyone else.

Rolt - agreed about the Tartan, and thanks for pointing out that he is in fact wearing tabs, I hadn't noticed them. I also can't see whether they're single or double, and wouldn't know what either would imply in this instance! I'm curious to know what any experts make of the diced hose and shoes.

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Just following on from that last post - what I'm really curious about is whether the elements of the uniform fit together. The cap badge and glengarry seem to my eyes to indicate Gordon Highlanders, and the shape of the sporran cantle looks right. It's very hard to tell, but I agree with Rolt that there might be a third tassel which wouldn't make sense - or would it...? What about the tartan?

And the hose, tabs and shoes/brogues - are they actually army issue, and do they match the other elements of the uniform?

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Gordons cap badge and glengarry but's that about it.

The sporran cantle is wrong for the Gordons and they had two not three tassles (with the exception of pipers in one of the battalions).

However even if the sporran in the photo does only have two tassles, one is in the wrong position.

The tartan does not appear to be Gordon. Too many prominent stripes and the sett is too small. I'm not sure what tartan that is.

Hose...he's not wearing flashes.

There doesn't appear to be a kilt pin either.

As for the shoes, no idea. Haven't come across these before.

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Gordon Highlander pipers wore hose of Gordon tartan through the 1920s. I agree that there is some concern about the multiple bright lines in the kilt. However, I think this can be explained by the panchromatic photography that became more common by the 1920s which I believe would be the likely date of the photo. Absence of hose flashes would eliminate a regular soldier. On balance, I would say that this is a piper (sans piping gear) of a TA battalion Gordon Highlanders circa 1920s.

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Here's an interesting one. It's a photo of a serving soldier,

How do you know this is a serving soldier?

Gordon Highlander pipers wore hose of Gordon tartan through the 1920s. I agree that there is some concern about the multiple bright lines in the kilt. However, I think this can be explained by the panchromatic photography that became more common by the 1920s which I believe would be the likely date of the photo. Absence of hose flashes would eliminate a regular soldier. On balance, I would say that this is a piper (sans piping gear) of a TA battalion Gordon Highlanders circa 1920s.

With 3 tassels on the sporran?

Post 1922 a gordon would also have been very likely to be wearing collar brasses which are not apparent here.

While there is considerable variation in how tartans are represented by ortho/pan chromatic films - and also influenced by the lighting I am not confident this is a panchromatic rendering of Gordons tartan - I will dig some out and try and post for comparison...

Whilst it is very difficult to make out the shoulder title they don't look curved to me as one would expect if it was Gordon (or post 1922 Gordons)

Having said all this: Had I seen this from the waist up I would have said Gordon without a second thought

Something is tugging at the depths of my dim memory that I have seen something like this before so I will delve into my photos.

Chris

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So---- the plot thickens....

A quick rummage in my photo albums produced this image which was the one I was thinking of -

post-14525-0-69321200-1422060051_thumb.j

I do not believe this is a Gordon -- but the tartan looks a good match for the photo

This is a panchromatic image of Gordon Tartan taken in daylight, looks different

post-14525-0-11583300-1422060055_thumb.j

BUT- then I remembered this: which in all respects looks to be a correctly dressed Gordons Piper - exhibiting a very similar representation of the Tartan. I am not sure how this effect is produced (ie is it early orthochromatic film that overemphasizes? yellows -- but then how to explain the cuffs of his doublet? So to be honest I am not sure where that puts us!

post-14525-0-33663600-1422060058_thumb.j

Perhaps Mike is correct - but which battalion had three tassels on its sporrans Ron Abbot? that is new to me

Peterhead was 1/5th Bn territory

Interesting stuff

Chris

EDIT: and looking again I am STILL not convinced the setts are the same in the kilts

EDIT 2: has anyone done a MIC search for A Brooks?

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If he was a Gordons piper, his glengarry would surely be plain and have no dicing.

4th Gordons.......with regard to three tassle sporrans, I have seen photos before of the pipers of one of the battalions wearing three tassle sporrans (which I thought was unusual at the time) but can't recall which one it was. Now that I try to find the photos again.....I can't!

All I can find is this photo......

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/423268064951792755/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/8165901@N08/7982512630/sizes/l/in/photostream/

How genuine is it? No shoulder shells.

However, the pattern of three tassled sporran in that photo is identical to the ones I previously saw of pipers from one of the (non regular Gordon battalions) of the Drums & Pipes wearing.

4th Gordons.....your photos above, have me thinking that the men in the 1st and 3rd photos might be wearing Royal Stewart tartan (?)

As for the original photo in this thread, it wouldn't be the Cameron of Erracht could it? Anyone have any black and white photos of the Camerons for comparison?

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Interesting!

So

1) yes I would always expect a Gordons piper to have a plain black glengarry with blackcock feathers (not a diced glengarry)

EDIT: having said that I just found this from a 1/7th Gordons camp pic

post-14525-0-97462500-1422082424_thumb.j

2) odd pattern of sporran on the picure you linked not sure I have seen the like in terms of the large circular badge

3) absence of shoulder shells is also odd

4) he does not appear to me to be wearing a black or archer green doublet but rather a standard scarlet doublet.

I have pictures of pipers of the 1/4th 1/5th 1/6th and 1/7th Gordons and they all have 2 tassle sporrans in the wartime pics I have so unless there was a change over time (ie pre or post war) that narrows it down a bit.

I shall no go in search of a Camerons photo

Chris

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Not a photo, and the colouring is hellish (!) but funnily enough that same sporran again.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/169096160984144747/

The cap badge worn by the pipers of the 6th (Volunteer) Battalion in the late 1800s was of a very similar pattern to that of the badge on the sporran cantle in the photo. The pipers badge was like a modern 'clan badge', open in the middle, just like that one.

I had a look at the Gordon Highlanders Collections of Bagpipe Music, but there are no photos in them of Gordon pipers wearing a sporran with three tassles.

Scarlet doublet....you're right it does look scarlett!

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A long close stare at the original photo suggests to me there are only TWO tassels : the third is an illusion caused by the dark further edge of the kilt beyond the sporran.

The absence of the third brass cone is the clincher .

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I believe the shoes are of an earlier pattern which was replaced just before the war, and if this chap does turn out to be a piper, then the band may have continued to wear the earlier lighter style of Highland shoe. Of course, the substantial stock of these shoes would continue to be worn for some time. Another forum member once had a pair dated 1898, which I did a little restoration work on. I believe I have a photograph of these somewhere, I'll look it out. These were a simple pattern compared to later issues with a more rounded toe shape.

The fancier pattern with the perforations and reverting to a more rounded to shape (still the issued type I believe) did not come into use until just after WW2. The Northampton Boot and Shoe Museum record cards I looked at showed the pattern change date as 1947, but the records are a bit confused, and confusing, so that would have to be confirmed. I'd say it's a reasonable guide however.

The WW1 pattern had a much squarer toe like the service boot patterns and was fitted with standard ironwork for infantry use.

Regards

Tocemma

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I'm not so sure. It looks more like three tassles to me.

And if it is only two tassles then one of the two is the centre of the sporran....where it shouldn't be!

Look at the centre/bottom of the cantle. One of the tassles starts right there. Correct place if the sporran has three tassles but not if it has only two.

And the cantle is of a different pattern to those on the 'normal two tassled sporrans' worn by the Gordons.

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A long close stare at the original photo suggests to me there are only TWO tassels : the third is an illusion caused by the dark further edge of the kilt beyond the sporran.

The absence of the third brass cone is the clincher .

I'm not so sure. It looks more like three tassles to me.

And if it is only two tassles then one of the two is the centre of the sporran....where it shouldn't be!

Look at the centre/bottom of the cantle. One of the tassles starts right there. Correct place if the sporran has three tassles but not if it has only two.

And the cantle is of a different pattern to those on the 'normal two tassled sporrans' worn by the Gordons.

I agree with Tony - I think what most people are seeing as the third tassel is just the very edge of the kilt visible on the viewers left. As the tassels are on chains/rope they do move about, and in the original picture the sporran is slightly canted down on the wearers left, which would explain why the right hand one has moved somewhat more central. I also think the angle of the photo is distorting how the cantle appears, and that it is the standard triple-pointed version as used by Seaforth and Gordons among others.

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Well I still think there are three... :wacko:

What about this for comparison - apologies for the poor picture quality it is from a french commercial postcard showing "Scottish troops in Paris 1916"

post-14525-0-48405900-1422118317_thumb.j

How about Scots Guards as an off the wall guess, I think that is who these are.

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Well I still think there are three... :wacko:

What about this for comparison - apologies for the poor picture quality it is from a french commercial postcard showing "Scottish troops in Paris 1916"

attachicon.gifparade.jpg

Chris

Thanks for posting all the interesting photos any one of which could be its own thread. The last is definitely Scots Guards as you noted. This can be seen in the cap badge and sporran badge.

Regarding the sporran, it does appear to be three tassels. Unfortunately I am away from my archives right now to explore this point. Over the years there has been much variation in the sporran pattern worn by pipers even in the regular battalions of the Gordons. It would not surprise me then to see a 3-tasseled version used by some TA/TF battalion.

The highland shoes with long hose is also perplexing. I have previously only seen this post-WW2.

What about the arm band on the OP? Anyone have ideas on this?

Mike

How about Scots Guards as an off the wall guess, I think that is who these are.

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I still think it may be a three-tassled sporran of a type similar to this one :-

https://www.flickr.com/photos/8165901@N08/7982512630/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Does anyone have a photo of piper/s of the 6th (Volunteer) Battalion circa late 1880s/1890s?

The badge on the cantle is very similar, perhaps even identical to the cap badge that was worn by the pipers of the 6th during that era.

It would be interesting to see whether any photos exist of the pipers of the 6th and especially of the sporrans they wore.

As for the tartan of the kilt in the original photo.....one further comment.

The kilt is not pleated to stripe in the manner that one would expect a Gordon's kilt to be pleated.

Royal Stewart tartan? Possible but typically of a larger sett.

Anyone have any old black and white photos of Cameron Highlanders in their kilts for comparison to see whether it could be Cameron of Erracht?

p.s. 4th Gordons.....great photo of the Scots Guards! Thanks. (my father was a piper in 1 SG). Always amazes me to see how far apart the drones were positioned back then. A 'fashion' that has changed over the years.

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Chris, Rolt968, Andrew, Tocemma, Gordon92, Ron, Steve, Tony - thank you all very much for your interest, and for your comments so far! Highland uniform seems to be such a tricky subject, and I never cease to be impressed by your knowledge of this complicated area. This is so subject that I have relatively limited knowledge of, so I really value your opinions.

This particular photo has caused me a lot of head scratching, and I can see that reflected in much of the discussion so far. I'll try to summarise what I understand form the various comments so far:

Everyone seems to accept that the glengarry and badge indicate Gordon Highalnders.

The kilt doesn't appear to match the standard Gordon's tartan, but there does appear to be some variation in the appearance of kilts in some of these photos (and it's quite similar to the kilt worn by what appears to be a Gordon's piper in the last photo in post #9). There is a debate about whether the sporran has 2 or 3 tassels - personally I think there are 3 tassels, the 'central' one appears to be in line with the centre of the cantle and there seems to be an indent in the horse-hair where the chain supporting the tassel would be lying. That's just my opinion, and I'm happy to receive other opinions on this.

There hasn't been much commentary on his shoes and hose, and I'm assuming that this isn't a very typical appearance. Tocemma says the shoes are an old pattern. The hose appears to match hose worn by men in some of the other photos. I'm not clear whether this style of hose is specific to pipers or whether it was also worn by others.

Nobody's had much to say about the brassard.

Overall, I'm understanding that there is some doubt as to whether the whole ensemble is 'right' - but there are photos of other men whose uniforms don't appear to comply with 'the rules'.

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Headgardener,

One amendment to your excellent summary: I would be more certain that there is no photographic evidence (that I have seen) indicating that tartan hose was worn by anyone other than pipers in the Gordon Highlanders or in any other regiment for that matter. Certainly, the Military Band wore the usual red and black hose. See below.

2GHBandvisittoSA1936_zpsfdffd0ba.jpg

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Chris made a couple of very pertinent comments - he asked me how I knew that this man was a serving soldier, and mentioned the man's shoulder badges. A couple of you commented on them, and said that they didn't appear to look like a 'Gordon's' title.

There is a little bit of info on the back of the card - I hope you don't mind me holding back on this point, I didn't mention it in my original post because I thought it might distract from consideration of the uniform as a whole. Mr. Brooks signed the back of the card in the same hand and style, and at the same 45 degree angle as on the front of the card, and he also wrote the name of his unit - the trouble is that it doesn't match what we see on the card, except for one potentially important respect. He wrote "Pte. A. Brooks, 22nd Royal Fusiliers" - that's the Kensington battalion.

OK, so I imagine that many of you will say that this uniform clearly isn't RF and must therefore be someone posing with some photographers props. The interesting thing is that his shoulder titles (which I appreciate can't be seen clearly on the scan) definitely consist of the letters RF underneath a flaming grenade, and they are clearly metal rather than a cloth 'slip-on' title. Now, I can believe that someone might go into a photographers studio and dress up in a uniform that isn't his own, but would he add shoulder titles to the ensemble? The SD jacket is clearly a properly tailored 'cut away' and not simply a RF man wearing his own jacket together with a random kilt and glengarry. And I have yet to see a photographers mock-up which included a brassard, let alone a blank (presumably coloured) brassard. I simply can't understand what were seeng here, and maybe we will never get to the bottom of it. But here are a couple of thoughts that I had, and I'd really value your comments.

22/RF were disbanded in early 1918. I wondered if he might be part of the battalion establishment detached to another unit (perhaps wearing some left-over bits of equipment belonging to that unit) - by coincidence, there's a thread currently open on the subject of men from disbanded battalions being attached to other units. I also wondered whether the brassard might be of relevance in this regard. I also wondered whether he might be detached to the staff of a TRB which was technically part of a specific regiment (ditto regarding the brassard), but which one...?! I also wondered whether he might have some connection with the 23/RF pipe band (maybe the fact he wrote '22nd' was a slip of the hand?).

Otherwise, I am at a total loss. I realize that the uniform and the regiment simply do not match, and I'm clutching at straws in my attempts to explain it. Nonetheless, the metal RF & grenade shoulder title matches the information on the card, and I can't see this being explained by the jacket being a photographers prop. Similarly, the blank brassard seems like a very strange addition to a 'prop' uniform.

I'm very happy for any of this to be shot down by any of you - I'd simply be grateful for your comments.....! Can any of you think of a way in which this uniform could be explained?

Gordon92: I just spotted your last post - thanks for posting the pic, and for the explanation. Any other thoughts in light of what I've just posted here?

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how about a second line battalion of the Royal (Scots) Fusiliers - perhaps the "Scots" was taken for granted by a man being photographed in a kilt in Peterhead?

So it would be 2/? RSF (as far as I know there were 2/4 and 2/5 battalions I don't know of a 2/2 (ie feeder battalion for the second battalion but....)

The plaid does not look a bad match for RSF pipers nor do the hose: See here:

Early war second line battalions would have had to make do with scraps of kit

The brassard is an interesting question, the place I have most often seen plain brassards/bands on men's left arms is POWs (often when they are wearing the dark blue uniform) this would perhaps explain the mish-mash of uniform (incorrect cap etc) -- if it were not for the fact that it was taken in the UK!

I would tend to think this is EARLY rather than late. By late equipment was much more standardized and photos of training groups and young soldiers battalions in 1918 tend to show them pretty well kitted out in standard uniforms and equipment - far more so than early. If I had to guess I would say this is more likely to be early than later (if not pre war)

Chris

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The shoulder title looks rather like a one piece to me and I don't think the RSF ever had such a style of title.

Another peculiar point is that the Gordons cap badge that he is wearing is of 'staff type' (3-dimensional) which was only worn by (or authorised for) officers and SNCOs.

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how about a second line battalion of the Royal (Scots) Fusiliers - perhaps the "Scots" was taken for granted by a man being photographed in a kilt in Peterhead?

So it would be 2/? RSF (as far as I know there were 2/4 and 2/5 battalions I don't know of a 2/2 (ie feeder battalion for the second battalion but....)

The plaid does not look a bad match for RSF pipers nor do the hose: See here:

Early war second line battalions would have had to make do with scraps of kit

The brassard is an interesting question, the place I have most often seen plain brassards/bands on men's left arms is POWs (often when they are wearing the dark blue uniform) this would perhaps explain the mish-mash of uniform (incorrect cap etc) -- if it were not for the fact that it was taken in the UK!

I would tend to think this is EARLY rather than late. By late equipment was much more standardized and photos of training groups and young soldiers battalions in 1918 tend to show them pretty well kitted out in standard uniforms and equipment - far more so than early. If I had to guess I would say this is more likely to be early than later (if not pre war)

Chris

Chris

At that time all ranks of the RSF including pipers wore Government tartan. Cannot remember wnether it was shortly after or shortly before WW2 that the RSF went into Hunting Erskine trews, and pipers adopted Royal Erskine kilts. I would say that the subject in your linked photo is wearing Mackenzie tartan kilt and hose of the HLI which is noted as one of his two regiments.

Mike

Edit: Should be Dress Erskine NOT Royal Erskine

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